Caitlyn likes baking.

This is my little niece Caitlyn. She is absolutely gorgeous; the most precious little body on the planet earth (along with her brother and her little cousins); a wonderful little gift that appeared in my family about 15 months ago; a treasure; a delight! As my Mum (Nana) says: absolutely perfect. She spends her days following her big brother, Josh (4) around, exploring and discovering, laughing and playing, and sometimes crying and being grumpy, but that’s OK because she is just sooooo precious, special, adorable (add any descriptive word denoting how wonderful she is). Just thinking about her brings great warmth to my heart and inner being.

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In these pictures, she and Josh had been helping their mother with some baking, which means that Josh had been allowed to stir the ingredients, and then lick the spoon. In a particularly generous moment, he gave the spoon to Caitlyn, and she got to taste uncooked cake mixture for the first time. Not quite in the prescribed diet for one so small, but it happened, and it seems she enjoyed it. A lot.

At times when I find myself near the bottom of the nutella jar (or the peanut butter jar, or the packet of biscuits, or the cake of chocolate, or all of the above…) I, too, have found my face and hands sticky with evidence of the feeding frenzy. Often it has been unconscious; just stuffing food (calorie laden food, never carrots or cucumbers) into my body to fill some gaping, aching hole that has appeared on my insides. This hole has nothing to do with physical hunger or appetite. It has everything to do with pain, loneliness, frustration, feelings of unworthiness, self loathing… And my way to dull the ache, to find a little bit of comfort, has been to stuff food into me. During and after the feeding, I descend into a particularly derogatory, lengthy and extremely depressing self loathing speech that lasts many hours, sometimes days. It continues in my head, on repeat, very loudly. And it’s hard to stop it. And of course all of the feeding leads to weight gain… which sets off the destructive internal dialogue, which excavates the pain hole again, which then leads to more feeding… and the cycle continues unless it can be broken…

I have had to learn how to recognise when these episodes are approaching, and then circumvent them, and if that doesn’t work, to learn how to coach my way through them, down from them, and away from them. The books talk about learning how to love and accept oneself. (Geneen Roth: ‘Feeding the Hungry Heart’ is fantastic!) I’ve struggled with that concept for a long time. Its hard to change a lifelong habit of the terrible self talk. To find and implement a new mantra, or series of sentences to counter the screaming voices, is a difficult thing.

But I have found an answer for me! These pictures! I would never talk to Caitlyn (or ANYBODY else) the way I talk to myself, so I imagine that the precious little person in these pictures is me. The part of me that has succumbed to the pain of life with a food stuffing frenzy, is just like this precious wee cherub. To beat her with harsh words, put-downs and more punishment is completely abhorrent. (How could any one do that to a little kid anyway?!? but that’s a whole other blog rave…) She needs cuddles and a wash. She needs kind words and guidance. She needs love and affection. She needs assurances and hope. And that is what she will get. And this is what I will get too. From me, to me. Keeping these images on my computers and in my brain helps me to keep a constant smile on my face and forgiving attitude of myself. The way that I talk to myself has completely changed. And life is so much better. I still find the pain hole every now and then, and stuff it full of food, but the frequency is less, and I can mindfully watch what is happening, and climb out with less damage. I really hope that everyone can learn how to talk to themselves with love and support, with peace. And finding a picture like one of these could be the key for you.

What is your experience?

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